God can be misunderstood depending on why we think God punishes and how we think God feels about punishment. God surely would not depend only on a Book, the Bible, to convey their nature. Many have never had a Bible and ancient literature is always subject to interpretation thus misunderstanding. We can also know God based on how we think loving, perfect friends or parents should act when wrongdoing has taken place. How does God view punishment?
An angry Deity who delights in punishment comes to mind for some when reading the Bible. But, many passages suggest God threatened punishment only as a last resort. Fear seeks to deter evil but doesn’t lead to life transformations. Changes comes within one’s heart. Parents threaten punishment to steer their children from self-destruction and destruction of others. Tough love is simply another side of genuine love.
God or parents don’t relish or seek to pile on. Wrongdoing has its own punishment due to regrets or loss of relationships.
Repentance isn’t about somehow restoring God’s honor as if God can lose it. Regrets are for our own good, leading to healing and restoration. God hates when punishment is necessary (Jonah 4:2) and does so with a grieving heart (Gen. 6:6). God doesn’t seek fear but wishes to encourage in battles against self-centeredness or habitual sins in our lives.
God’s punishment is described in the Bible as withdrawing their influence in our lives because of resistance.
This best explains passages such as: “But I (God) will harden Pharaoh’s heart…” (Ex. 7:3). It also says: “But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go” (Ex 8:32). Only a mindless writer would contradict themselves in practically the same breath. Paul says about Pharaoh’s instances: “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” (Rm. 11:32). God is hoping freedom to carry out evil desires may lead Pharaoh and us to hit bottom and desire change.
God punishment in the Bible is also depicted as delivering us over to our own desires.
How else can we explain passages such as Romans 1:24: “Therefore, God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…” The Bible as a whole doesn’t suggest God makes us commit evil. God created freedom so we can make choices leading to real, lasting changes. Controlling love as opposed to uncontrolling love can simply lead to further or deeper rebellion.
God hates withdrawing or delivering us up to evil as any loving parent would. Such love by God or a parent though may benefit us in the long-run. Jesus’ death wasn’t to placate a blood-thirsty God who needed their child murdered to satisfy their need for punishment. God prefers much more a contrite heart then sacrifices (Ps. 51: 16-17). God as any loving parent desires to empower us to reflect such love back to others. A relationship, not fear of punishment, leads to becoming more the person we desire to be.